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No. 16, June 2001
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Turner
The Oxford Companion to J. M. W. Turner
Turner: The Great Watercolours
Biography


Turner: Interior of Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, c. 1794. Pencil and watercolour; 32.1 x 25.1 cm. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Photograph: Turner: Aquarelle. Hirmer. Copyright.
 

Turner: Petworth, Sussex, the Seat of the Earl of Egremont: Dewy Morning, RA 1810. Oil on canvas; 91.4 x 120.6 cm. Tate Gallery and the National Trust (Lord Egremont Collection), Petworth House. Photograph: The Oxford Companion To J. M. W. Turner. Copyright.
  

Turner: Seascape, Folkestone, c. 1845. Oil on canvas; 88.3 x 117.5 cm. Private Collection, New York. Photograph: The Oxford Companion To J. M. W. Turner. Copyright.
  

Turner: Der Lauerzer See mit dem Mythen, c. 1848. Watercolour and Indian ink; 33.7 x 54.5 cm. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Photograph:
Turner: Aquarelle. Hirmer. Copyright. 
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This article is based on:


The Oxford Companion To J. M. W. Turner, ed. by Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin, Luke Herrmann. OUP, 2001, 419 p. It is a reference guide with over 760 alphabetical entries covering all aspects of Turner's life and art as well as his reception past and present. Furthermore, the cultural, social and political context in which he worked is explained. It comes with a detailed bibliography and chronology. Get it from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr.


Turner: The Great Watercolours, ed. by Eric Shanes, Evelyn Joll, Ian Warrell, Andrew Wilton. Royal Academy of the Arts/Thames and Hudson/Harry N Abrams, 2000. It is the catalogue of the Royal Academy exhibition in London for Turner's 150th year of death. The biography provided by The Oxford Companion is more detailed and accurate, but the book is essential for understanding Turner's watercolours. Get it from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr.
German edition/Deutsche Ausgabe: Turner. Aquarelle. Hirmer, München, 2001, 254 p. Get it from/Bestellen bei Amazon.de.
 

Article added on June 16, 2001
  
Turner is acknowledged as one of Britain's greatest painters. His landscapes are considered some of the finest in history. The reproductions of four of his works on the left show the tremendous artistic progress Turner has brought to art world. The two lower photographs show why he was appreciated by the Impressionists and why he is considered one of their forerunners. Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (himself a frontrunner), Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro studied his work. But there was one essential difference between Turner's working methods and the one of the Impressionists: Turner painted his oils in the studio and not in the open.
 
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London in 1775. His father, a prosperous barber and wigmaker in Covent Garden, supported and promoted his son's ambitions to become an artist from his earliest childhood. Turner had deep knowledge of the classics and the Bible and attended recitations of Shakespeare. He received early training in several architects' offices from 1789 on and was during his lifetime the master of three major architectural projects. He was introduced to the world of the technical and practical which fostered his interest in how things worked. He was fond of modern gadgets such as a swivelling painting table or a water closet. Turner also enjoyed the equipment in John Jabez Edwin Mayall's (1813-1901) studio. Mayall was a daguerrotypist and photographer whose studio he visited regularly from 1847 on - apparently incognito.
 
In 1786, Turner was sent to stay in Margate where he made his earliest surviving drawings. In 1789, the year of the French Revolution, he took classes with Thomas Malton and was later accepted to the Royal Academy Schools. where, in 1790, he had his first picture exhibited at the yearly exhibition.
 
In 1791, he traveled through the West Country and sometimes worked as a scene-painter at the Pantheon Opera House. In 1792/93, Turner came in contact with the Society of Arts which, in 1793, awarded him the Great Silver Pallet as a prize for his landscape watercolours. A year later, art critics took notice of his work. From 1796, his oil paintings were regularly shown at the Royal Academy. He also added poems to his works exhibited at the Academy, e.g. in 1800.
 
In 1799, Turner was recommended to Lord Elgin to accompany him to Greece as his draughtsman but Elgin found Turner's terms too stiff. In 1801, Turner traveled for the first time through Scotland. A year later, he became a Royal Academician and, during the Peace of Amiens, embarked on his first Continental tour which led him, among others, to France and Switzerland where the Swiss Alps were to inspire him for the rest of his life. In Paris, he spent three weeks studying the pictures in the Louvre.
 
In 1801, the American-born history painter and President of the Royal Academy (1792-1805) Benjamin West (1738-1820) as well as the Swiss-born history painter Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) who worked in London from 1799 and was Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy from 1799-1805 and 1810-1825 and Keeper 1804-1805, both considered Turner's Dutch Boats in a Gale superior to Rembrandt. By the way, some Swiss readers may wonder who Fuseli is - in Switzerland he is known as the Zurich-born Johan Heinrich Füssli.
 
In 1803, Turner became a member of the Royal Academy Council as well as the Hanging Committee. The following year, his mother died. Turner opened his own gallery at his house in London's Harley Street. Three years later, he was appointed professor for perspective at the Royal Academy. In 1808, he met for the first time Walter Fawkes in Farnley Hall, Yorkshire, a politician and landowner who became his close friend.
 
In 1817, Turner traveled through Belgium, Holland and along the Rhine between Cologne and Mainz. The following year, James Hakewill commissioned watercolours of Italian landscapes from Turner and, together with other artists, Sir Walter Scott commissioned watercolours for the Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland. Both contracts led to extensive travels. In Italy in 1819, Turner made over 2,000 sketches.
 
Around 1820, Benjamin Godfrey Windus from Tottenham, London, began to collect Turner's watercolours. Some 20 years later, his collection counted some 200 works.
 
In 1822, Turner opened a new gallery with an exhibition of mainly earlier, unsold works. By the end of the same year, on the advice of Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), an English portrait painter and friend and patron of Turner, who, in 1820, had become the President of the Royal Academy, the King commissioned Turner to paint The Battle of Trafalgar for St. James's Palace.
 
In 1829, Turner's father died. He had been a "willing slave" and managed Turner's studio, stretching and priming canvases, manning the gallery and cooking. There is evidence of Turner's early dandyishness and swagger. But after his father's death, who, as a retired barber, had helped keep him neat and tidy, declined into genteel shabbiness in both person and property.
 
In 1832, Turner became a regular visitor to Sophia Caroline Booth's (1798-1875) lodgings at Margate. She had been his landlady in his schooldays and, after her husbands death in 1833, became his companion. Turner's 1846 will bequeathed her with an equal annuity of £150 and appointed her co-custodian of his gallery, together with Hannah Danby (1786-1853), who was reported to have been Turner's housekeeper for 42 years.
 
In 1836, Turner's paintings at the Royal Academy exhibition received virulent criticism in Blackwood's Magazine from Reverend John Eagles. In October, the English art and social critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) wrote a defence of Turner but the artist advised against publication. Ruskin became the leading interpreter of the artist's work and had to execute his will.
 
In 1844, Turner made his final tour of Switzerland - in this article, of course, only of few of the artist's extensive travels and exhibition's are mentioned. Turner was Deputy President of the Royal Academy. During the President's illness in 1845, Turner was appointed Acting President of the RA.
 
In 1845, Turner made his last trip abroad to Dieppe and the coast of Picardy. He also dined with Louis-Philippe at his Château at Eu. From 1846 on, Turner's health was declining. In 1847, Dogano... from the Steps of Europe became the first Turner painting to hang in the National Gallery. The following year, for the first time since 1824, Turner had nothing for the Royal Academy. He hired a young artist, Francis Sherrell (1826-1916), as his studio assistant. For most of Turner's life, his father had held this position. Sherrell seems to have stretched canvases, run errands and may have cleaned some of the pictures in exchange for lessons.
 
In 1849, the Society of Arts asked Turner if he he will permit a retrospective of his work. He declined it "from a peculiar inconvenience this year". In 1850, Turner exhibited his last four pictures at the Royal Academy. He died on December 19, 1851 and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral at the end of the same month.
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www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 16, June 2001
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  All Previous Articles
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2001  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.